06/06/2011, 01:33 PM
How Other Tablets Could Hold Their Own Against iPad 2
By Peter Pachal, February 10, 2011 10:35am EST
How Other Tablets Could Hold Their Own Against iPad 2 | News & Opinion | PCMag.com
With yesterday's unveiling of the HP TouchPad tablet, at last the players sitting across from the iPad are pretty much set. Over the past several months, tablets from multiple manufacturers have been revealed, and all we're waiting for now is for Apple's sequel to its original tablet. Well, that, and for the other models to actually go on sale—so far the only real contender that you can buy is the Samsung Galaxy Tab, though that's not much of a fair fight since its screen measures just 7 inches to the iPad's 10, and it runs what's technically a phone OS. But of the coming 10-inch tablets, do any of them actually have a fighting chance against the iPad, or rather, the next iPad, the one they'll actually be competing against?
They might. As I watched yesterday's reveal of the TouchPad, I couldn't help but think that the TouchPad was a just OK. It's not lousy by any stretch, but as far as a killer feature to really make me want it… well, there wasn't one. Like many tech observers, I find webOS to be an excellent operating system, but, as a fan of shiny new gadgets, I didn't see much to make me want to buy HP's gadget in lieu of a second-gen iPad, which will surely be on sale in a few months if not weeks. Sure the cameras are nice, but it would be insane to think Apple hasn't got that covered in iPad 2.
However, as analyst Harry Wang at Parks Associates explained to me, such hardware comparisons may not matter. HP's retail-channel distribution is excellent, he said, and if the company can get the TouchPad to follow its printers and PCs into megastores like Best Buy, Target and Wal-Mart, then it's all but guaranteed to sell in high numbers.
"This device has a good chance of selling good volume," Wang says. "HP is a credible and trustworthy brand, but also you'll find [the TouchPad] everywhere. The retail distribution strength of HP's brand will definitely help sales. The hardware performance and pricing are certainly important, but we should not underestimate the ability of good distribution network."
In yet another corner is Google Android, its Honeycomb tablet OS, and its headliner first product, the Motorola Xoom. Although the Xoom looks to be able to go toe-to-toe with iPad 2 feature-wise, the supposedly leaked price, $800, looks to handicap the device's chances at luring iPad customers even before it goes on sale. However, if you look at the actual numbers, including carrier costs, the difference isn't quite so stark, Wang says.
"The $800 price tag… is one way to validate Steve Jobs' claim that competition will have a hard time to match Apple's offerings on price," he says. "But Verizon's data plan (according to the BestBuy leaked weekly circular) is more generous than AT&T's on a per megabyte basis ($20 for 1GB versus $15 for 250 MB at AT&T). So if looking at one-year total ownership cost, these two offerings are probably equal."
Looking at the TouchPad, there are still two big unknowns that could make or break it, however, says Wang. One is battery life: the Xoom's is rated at 10 hours, or about the same as the iPad's, but HP was mum on this spec at yesterday's event. The other factor is price. If the TouchPad ends up being more expensive than an iPad with similar specs, then it's hard to imagine anyone but the most intense WebOS loyalists (or, conversely, Apple haters) picking one up.
"If the TouchPad can't match those features," Wang says. "It will probably be at significant disadvantage."
Assuming a decent battery life and competitive price, though, the TouchPad just might have a shot. It definitely has its work cut out for it—the depth of webOS's app store is extremely thin, and a summer release puts it months behind Apple's probable refresh. But if it can get in the right stores, and at the right price, HP will sell a bunch of them, almost inevitably. It's hard to think of a factor more important in sales than just getting your product in front of people, and that's something HP already knows how to do.